How To Get Rid Of The Horrible WHAT IF Loop

By using this one simple trick, you can turn WHAT IFs into actionable plans. The problem about WHAT IFs is that they are not specific enough to do anything about them, so they are unsolved problems that never go away. So change WHAT IFs into WHAT WOULD I DO IF.  Then answer your own question.

You see, you are the only part of the unknown equations of the future that you may have any control over.  In all honesty, none of us really knows how we will react in the face of future crises, nor can we imagine every crisis that may occur.  But with the WHAT WOULD I DO IF method, you at least can propose a solution to what you are afraid may happen, OR you will have to realize that you will have absolutely no control over that situation in the future, so you will simply have to entrust it to the care and control of God.

In other words, it will help you sort things out according to the Serenity Prayer:  accept the things you cannot change or control,  do the things you can change and control, and determine which category this WHAT WOULD I DO IF falls under.

If you do this continually, you will end up without WHAT IFs, and will be free to turn your thoughts elsewhere.  However, please be aware that you may be staying in this WHAT IF loop because you DON’T want to turn your attention anywhere else.  You may have surrendered to this loop because it keeps you from thinking about other things that really bother and frighten you.  If so, you need to get outside help to determine what is scaring you so much that you’d rather make yourself sick with unnecessary worry with WHAT IFs than face whatever that is.

If you need any help uncovering and healing those issues, please feel free to contact me at

He’s Always Been There, Is Here Now, And Will Always Be There

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 4:* Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’[b]

who was, and is, and is to come.”

How often do we really stop to think about how God was there with us in our past, He is here with us in the present, and He will be there in the future? If we really believed that He is the Lord God Almighty who is, and who was, and who is to come, we would

– remember His past faithfulness,
– acknowledge His presence in our current situation, and
– commit to Him what will happen in the future.

Our problem is that, in all honestly, we have a tendency to completely forget He even exists in the middle of our crisis or simply busy activities. It is like He disappears from our life, and all of a sudden, we believe the lie that we alone must find a way to figure out the answers to our problems and miraculously come up with the power to make it happen. The moment we forget that He IS the answer to all of our problems, we take upon us the weight of the world.

But I want to remind you again today that He is the Lord God ALMIGHTY, with all power to handle every situation that arises. He was from the beginning, and has seen all of your life rolled out before Him like a scroll before you were even created. There is nothing that will catch Him by surprise that He doesn’t know how to handle (unlike us).

He is present with you at every moment, waiting for you to turn to Him for the wisdom and power you need to get through the day. He never leaves you nor forsakes you, NOT FOR ONE SECOND! He hems you in from in front and behind, going before you and protecting you from the rear as well.

And since He is outside time, time is like a length of string on the table in front of Him – it does not limit Him, but instead He sees the beginning to the end all in one glance. He will move things around in the spirit realm as well as the physical realm to ensure that His plan will unfold according to His will, even despite those who refuse to surrender to Him. He is the Master Chess Player, always countering the moves of the enemy of your soul and those on earth who choose to go their own way.

So whatever you are going through today, remember that He will remain faithful and present, wherever you go and whatever you do. You can trust that no man can take you out of His hand. Regardless of the schemes of the wicked and the unfaithful, God will continue to provide for all of your needs as you seek and trust in Him.

Questions for the day:
1) Who was – recount to yourself the times that God has been there for you in the past. Encourage yourself and build up your faith by remembering this.
2) Who is – what do you need Him to do for you today? He is standing right there, waiting for you to call out to Him and ask Him for it. Ask now.
3) Who is to come – what are you worrying will happen tomorrow? Will God be right there beside you tomorrow, able to give you what you need at that time too? Then tell Him you will leave tomorrow to itself, because today has more than enough trouble of its own. Consciously choose to commit tomorrow to God’s capable hands. He’ll be there for you then, too.

How Is Your Peace?

I was researching the word peace in Jer. 29:11, and found it to be “shalom”. I read up on it and found that in Israel today, they have a greeting that consists of saying, “How is your peace?” That really hit home with me. How is MY peace?

Several other meanings for shalom include in tranquillity, at ease and unconcerned. Hmmmmmm, I spend my days and nights being concerned about everything and trying to figure out how to handle it all. All that thinking makes me NOT at ease, or tranquil. What did Jesus say about not being concerned about what we will eat or drink or wear? No, this worry robs me of peace.

It also signifies a state in which someone can feel at ease, comfortable with another person. How many of us are no longer comfortable with ourselves, much less at ease with others? The isolation which depression brings cuts us off from others, leaving us feeling like there is something wrong with us, so we feel uncomfortable being with others. Plus, the stigma of depression in the church makes us feel even more uncomfortable in our own skin, affecting our ability to feel peace.

Shalom also refers to harmonius relationships. It is hard to experience harmonious relationships when you are scared to death of being around people. Plus, when we have relational problems at work or at home, that steals our peace as well.

Shalom can also refer to our welfare. How many of us deal with medical-related issues that make us feel less than whole? Constant pain as a companion can make us feel emotionally and mentally crippled as well, and without a break in the pain, it is hard to relax and be at ease.

Shalem is the Hebrew verb for peace, meaning to be complete, be sound. How many of us feel broken and incomplete, like people and circumstances have left us with holes in our souls and spirit? How can we feel whole when we can’t seem to pull ourselves together to get out of bed, or leave the house, or spend time with others?

Yet the covenant God has made with believers is a covenant of peace, prophesied all the way back to Isaiah. Our Messiah is a Prince of Peace. He has promised us peace, but not as the world gives. His peace that He gives passes all understanding, because it comes from trusting in Him.

That is how we can be unconcerned for the things we think we must scramble to obtain in order to survive, because we rest in the fact that He says He will provide them for us because of our faith in Him (not just because of our need for them). Our peace can come from our harmonious relationship with Him, instead of from relationships with others (although we need to establish and work on human relationships). We can have peace also through the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing God can bring for our welfare.

Finally, our completeness can come from being IN Him and He being in us. Everything we are not, He is – through His Spirit in us. We are more than just the sum of our broken parts – we are vessels of the Holy Spirit who fills us and fills those holes in our souls.

I want to experience peace, a lack of strife and struggling, harmonious relationships, unconcerned for things I have no control over and for which Jesus has promised to provide. I want to feel whole and unbroken, without emotional, mental and physical pain, and I will need to receive that by faith directly from Him. Peace will only come when I am in a completely trusting relationship with Him.

So, how is YOUR peace?

Penny Haynes

There Is Rest In God’s Presence

Exo 33:14
14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

I hate driving in downtown Atlanta. It has a lot of one way streets. Take a wrong turn, and you could be wandering through the maze of streets for what seems like forever.

I used to get sick at the thought of going there, panicked because I didn’t know where I was going. But THEN God said “Let there be GPS”, and it was good! All of a sudden, I had someone with me who knew exactly where to go and when to turn, and this machine gave me true rest. Why? Because I was no longer alone and trying to figure it all out by myself.

So much of our stress in life is caused by being in situations where we have no control and no idea how things will turn out. The unknown freaks us out more than we consciously acknowledge. Imagine knowing that someone else who knows the future and also knows where you are to go and what you are to do accompanies you everywhere. They may sit in the driver’s seat silently while you whine and cry, but they still get you where you need to be, and later you realize you made a fuss unnecessarily.

How much of our life do we spend as if God is our Co-pilot, when in reality, He should be the one flying the plane? If I ride in the car with my husband and I don’t know how to get where we’re going, that doesn’t freak me out. I trust that he is capable of getting me where I am going. Why don’t I do that with God?

One day, I hope I evolve to the point where I am not worrying about my clothes or food or bills, but enjoy the here and now with which He has blessed me. I want to be able to rest in His presence right now, where I am. I want to be able to let go of my tight grip on my demands for the future, which essentially leaves my hands too full to receive the blessings of today. However, I can only do this if I remember He is always with me.

Penny Haynes

Not Knowing Where We Are Going

Heb 11:8-10
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost For His Highest, talks about Abraham, the man of faith, going away from everything and everyone he knew in obedience to God’s command – NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WAS GOING. His was a walk of faith, NOT REASON. I would have had a lot of trouble with that myself – I don’t even like being behind a large truck when I’m driving, because I can’t see the road ahead!

I don’t like not knowing where my life is going. I like calendars and time slots and projects and tasks and goals. If I don’t know where I’m going, how will I know how to get there? How will I know when I am getting near, and what to do when I get there? How can I succeed (or more accurately, avoid failing) if I don’t have the detailed agenda and milestones for achievement?

Yet God does not promise us any details about His particular plan for us, His timetable, or even what we are to accomplish. I wonder if that is because we would reason ourselves into a tizzy, questioning God on every item. However, I think it is mainly because He wants us to depend on Him daily for direction (if there even is any direction that day), instead of taking the instructions and telling Him we’ll just take it from here, saying “Thank You very much for the suggestions, God”.

Chambers stresses that although Abraham didn’t know WHERE he was going, he knew Whose hand was leading him, and that knowledge was enough for Abraham. He knew God well enough, His nature and character, to know that He was trustworthy for the journey ahead. Perhaps it was that intimate knowledge of God that also allowed Abraham to obediently raise the knife to sacrifice his son, saying to Isaac, “God will Himself provide the sacrifice.”

But where does that leave you and I? If you are anything like me, you are not thrilled with the idea of pitch black in front of us until we see heaven’s light. However, if this IS the way God does business with us, not telling us the day or hour that things will happen, maybe we had better learn to adjust our expectations (or dare I admit it, our DEMANDS) of Him, and give up hope on getting any detailed spiritual forecasts for our life. If we gave up that hope, we would be left with only one thing on our agenda everyday – to listen to and obey Him. What a novel thought!

Adjusting our focus from long term goals to simply loving God and others as we interact with them is a major mental shift for most of us. What if where we go and what we achieve simply isn’t important, and it is only how we treat God and the people that we meet along this journey to an unknown destination that matters at all? Everywhere Abraham went was a strange and foreign place to him, and he lived in temporary tents – nothing was very stable for him. The only constant in his life was God, Abraham’s friend and companion. Maybe that’s how we’re supposed to look at life, too.

So while we are on this unknown journey to strange lands, we have two choices: 1) continue complaining that we don’t know where God is taking us, or 2) decide to become better friends with the One who leads us so we feel safer about the journey, and do our best to love everyone we meet along the way. I would like to opt for number two – it is a lot less stressful than trying to figure everything out!

Penny Haynes

Get To The Root Of What You Fear

Click here to listen to this audio clip: Get To The Root Of What You Fear (mp3)

Were you ever in bed in the dark and afraid there was something unwelcome or frightening in the room or the house with you? How did you handle that?  Did you throw the covers over your head and hope it would go away?  Or did you get up and turn on the light so you could dismiss what was most likely a fabrication of your mind or emotions?

When I was a small child, I covered myself with the covers. When I became a teenager, I decided I wasn’t going to be tormented by something that probably didn’t even exist – so I would get up and flip the light on.  A little maturity had taught me that most of the things I feared didn’t even exist, but that I could work myself into a frenzy over these things any way, so I should DEAL WITH IT so I could get back to sleep.

I must admit, as a grown up, I have felt evil presences in the dark. However, I learned to take the authority I have in Jesus’ name and rebuke whatever it was (well, WHEN I REMEMBERED to do it!).  I just refused to be terrorized when I could actually DO something about the terror.

Well, I am here to tell you that you CAN do something about the anxiety and terror you sometimes experience! You have to FACE whatever it is, and not bury it (or yourself) under the covers of sleep or busy-ness or ministry or relationships. You have to GET TO THE ROOT of whatever you fear and DEAL WITH IT AS A LOGICAL ADULT.

The problem is FIGURING OUT what the heck you are afraid of. Many times we say we are afraid of this or that (loss of finances, material things or relationships), but that is not accurate.  The loss of a relationship may actually reveal our fear of being alone, or unloved.  The loss of our finances may actually be a front for the fear of losing your possessions (or, like me, the fear of losing my home).

Now, I realize that some of you are at the point in your depression and anxiety that logical thinking can be a struggle (been there, done that, have the scars to prove it…), so you may need someone else to be your sounding board and help you get to the bottom line of what you fear.  You’ve got to find out what is REALLY terrorizing you beneath the panic and surface issues so that you can deal with THAT.  You can’t MAKE your other fears go away until you uncover their root.

I had to play through the scenario that I had lost my home in order to disarm that fear. We would not be out on the street. We would probably have to live with family or friends.  It may be uncomfortable, sad and discouraging, but it would NOT be the end of the world.

And THAT’S what you have to come to realize: Whatever you are afraid of, even if it came true, it would NOT be the end of the world.  Life would still go on (as long as death is not your fear), and you would learn to cope and make the best of the life you were living.

What is is that you are REALLY afraid of? Who can you trust to talk it out and help you discover it? Are you going to remain shivering with fear under the covers, or are you going to throw the covers back, flip on the lights and look in that closet, or under the bed?  You don’t have to live in terror any more!

Penny Haynes

Believing That God Is REALLY In Control

The difference between peace and panic is believing that God is REALLY and practically IN CONTROL. I’ve been a human study in this matter for the past 3 months, and I am happy to tell you, that you CAN move from panic to peace when you REALLY trust God for your situation.

In my example, I was working for a client that drove me crazy – ran up my blood pressure and made me miserable. Then some things went wrong for him that he decided was my fault, and therefore stiffed me for 2 weeks pay. Needless to say, we parted ways, but as my main client, that left me with almost no income.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know my history of panic when my money disappears.

However, since this client relationship had caused my blood pressure to shoot dangerously high, I decided to schedule my annual doctor and OBGYN check-ups (since that’s basically the only thing my major medical insurance covers).  During my family physician visit, my doctor bluntly told me I had a “huge mass” in my uterus.  Luckily, I like blunt doctors who don’t candy coat anything.  [And funnily enough, I was sort of happy to hear this, because I had lost 35 pounds but my stomach still wouldn’t get any smaller.  This at least explained it, and helped me not feel like my diet and exercise was fruitless.]

My blood work showed slightly high cholesterol, slightly high blood pressure, slightly low thyroid, and slightly elevated cancer screening, too. So he advised me to see my OGBYN asap, which I did.  To make a long story short, I have 7 fibroids, the largest of which is the size of a grapefruit.  The mass is so large that they couldn’t even do an internal sonogram, because the fibroids filled my entire uterus and the probe couldn’t see anything!

The verdict?  Total hysterectomy. My first thought was, “How much is this going to cost?” My deductible is $5,200 personally, and I have no income, AND my husband is scheduled to be laid off right at the time of my surgery.  We won’t have enough money coming in to even pay our normal bills, much less pay for surgery costs.

My second thought was, “Great. I can’t even look for a job, because my recovery time will be 6 weeks from my surgery.  There is NO WAY for me to make ANY INCOME AT ALL during this time period.”  All in all, from the time my client stiffed me to the time I will finish my recovery period, it will be THREE MONTHS of NO INCOME.

THAT’S when I started hyperventilating. That’s when the overwhelming panic set in.  Obviously, there was absolutely nothing I could do about my lost income, or my husband’s impending lost income, or the upcoming additional bills we were about to incur.  So what could I possibly do?

Eating at me was being cheated by my former client – I wanted to go online and take down everything I had done for him over that unpaid 2 week period.  But God clearly told me to LEAVE IT ALONE.  He said NOT TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, that He would take care of it. That money was supposed to cover taxes, house insurance, etc., and without it my bank account balance dropped horribly.

I started trying to spend time on my front porch to find a little peace and quiet, externally as well as internally. I read my devotion every morning and tried to pray and let go of what my client had done to me. During one of those mornings, I clearly heard God tell me that THIS three months was to be my vacation – my time off – and that I should enjoy it while I could, because when it was over, I was going to be extremely busy.  I thought, “OK, this sounds nice, but what about my bills, my business, etc.?”

Still, I decided I would take God at His word, NOT worry about the things I had absolutely no control over, and enjoy this time off. I started relaxing and not feeling guilty for enjoying this break.

The hospital bill was going to be $7353. We don’t have that, and couldn’t pay loan payments on that amount right now, either. I asked the hospital if they had financial aid, and they gave me someone’s phone number to call. She sent me a form to fill out and instructions, and since my surgery was in 3 weeks, I could send my info directly to the person in charge, because normally the approval process took 4 – 6 weeks.

I figured it was a long shot, but worth the try. My husband hadn’t been laid off yet, and we don’t have a mortage payment. I knew there were probably other people in much more dire straights than my husband and I.  Maybe they would give us a payment plan?

In one day we had an answer. They would write off my surgery bill ONE HUNDRED PERCENT!!!! I was stunned, shocked, and couldn’t believe it (neither did my husband). When I called back to confirm the message that had been left on my phone because it sounded too good to be true, the woman laughed and said it definitely was true.

GOD had allowed the perfect storm to brew – have my husband lose his job right when I have my surgery, and cut off my income from my client at just the right time – so I would be approved for 100% of financial aid.  He had made good on His promise to take care of everything – and of course, in a way that I NEVER would have guessed in a million years!

However, God does still want us involved WHEN HE DIRECTS IT. He directed me to contact via email my previous clients and let them know what my present skill set was, and ask if they or someone they knew needed any of my services.  I only got to the B’s before I received several responses of people who forwarded my information, offered to interview and promote me, and also one person in particular wanted to partner with me to do all of her clients’ web sites and audio and video – in July (which is when my convalescence ends).  Once again, God’s perfect timing.

So what are my lessons learned?

  1. When God says He is going to take care of it, He means it.
  2. If I try to figure out how God is going to take care of it, I will not be able to do it, so don’t bother trying.
  3. If I expect God to fix it in any particular way, I will most likely be unnecessarily disappointed – because He hadn’t promised to fix it in a particular way.
  4. If I try somehow putting my little fingers in the mix, I can mess up what He is trying to do, and make it take longer to fix.
  5. I have to listen to and obey Him to find out what, if any, part I am to play in this mess.
  6. I can enjoy peace and tranquility and joy even when everything appears to be going wrong – and I mean like “vacation-style” enjoyment, like I’ve been rewarded enjoyment.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with God proving He was in control. It would really encourage others to know what He has done for you in the past – so they know it can happen to them now and in the future.

Penny Haynes

Wrong Decision?

Have you ever been paralyzed from the fear of making a wrong decision? I hate it when I have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, and apparently, I get it wrong yet again.  But have I really gotten it wrong?  Or is this just another way of God guiding me through my Christ-life lessons?

Some decisions we know immediately were wrong – like running that red light when the cop was on the corner. Other bad decisions we discover later – like picking the wrong guy to date, or dealing with the pain of poorly chosen food.  Then there is the other type of “bad” decision – the one we never really know if it was right or wrong, but the worry about it nags at us throughout the years.

I know that I look back at times in my life and wish I had do-overs.  I wish that I had been athletic as a child, so maybe I wouldn’t have been so overweight or obese 90% of my life.  I think that maybe I might have been more attractive, and therefore more confident, and could have accomplished more social and public things.  I assume I would have been healthier throughout my life.

I also look at other crossroads – like after college, when I had to choose between becoming a missionary or working as a counselor at the Georgia Governor’s Honors program for a summer.  What would have happened if the missionary acceptance letter had come prior to the deadline for accepting the counselor position? What would have happened if I had been available to take my music publisher up on the opportunity to write songs with the singer/songwriter for New Song and Niles Borop (songwriter for Sandi Patti), instead of being in Valdosta as a counselor that summer.

What about that divorce that forced me to stop homeschooling, and give up all my dreams of offering my two very different children the absolute best teaching they could have obtained?  Would my children be different, instead of scarred from all that happened to them in public school?  Would my children have escaped all I had hoped for them to escape, instead of living most of the hell I went through in school?

If I stop there, I would just be listing the possible wrong decisions up to the time I was 30 years old.  That leaves out the last almost 17 years of more “wrong” decisions.  But that also brings me to my point.

If I hadn’t taken all those turns and twists, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today.  Not that I have achieved or have arrived, but I have learned.  I have learned enough to share with women younger than me going through many of the same questions and decisions.  And I have developed perspective that can only come with age.

I know now that whatever decision I make, He is still Lord over all.  Whether I turn to the right or turn to the left, He still sees me.  When I walk away, but then return, He is waiting for me.  And He is the Redeemer – the redeemer of my past, and also the redeemer of all of my “wrong” decisions.

He can take every mistake I have made, and still bring something beautiful out of it.  The path I chose brought me two truly amazing children, although they travel two very different paths, and I have no idea where either will end up.  This path has brought me closer to my parents, something I never would have guessed early on.  But most importantly, it has brought me closer to Him.  I see His fingerprint near every milestone in my life, being the Master Chess Player, countering my every move to position me right where He wants me in the end.

So maybe, just maybe, those decisions you are agonizing over aren’t really as important as you may think.  Regardless of whether you turn to the right or the left, good or bad decision, if you have committed yourself to Him, you are His, for all eternity.  You are His responsibility, and in His care.  He has a plan for you, and if you truly entrust yourself to Him, He will bring that plan about for you.

And whatever happens, all things will work for your good, because you are called according to His purpose, and you love the Lord.  The result of whatever happens will be the transformation of yourself into the image of Christ – Christ in you, the hope of glory.  I find comfort in knowing that even when I screw up, He can use it for my good and His glory, and bring beauty from ashes, dressing me in a garment of praise.  He can bring all of this about, even from my “wrong decisions.”

Penny Haynes

Don’t Be Afraid Of What Lies Ahead

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

 1 The LORD is my shepherd;
         I shall not want.
 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
         He leads me beside the still waters.
 3 He restores my soul;
         He leads me in the paths of righteousness
         For His name’s sake.
 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
         I will fear no evil;
         For You are with me;
         Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
         You anoint my head with oil;
         My cup runs over.
 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
         All the days of my life;
         And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD

There were some great quotes in this morning’s devotion that spoke directly to me, and I wanted to share them. They come from Streams In The Desert, which is actually a collection of other people’s writings as well.

“Never look ahead to the changes and challenges of this life in fear…Do not look ahead to what MAY happen tomorrow.  The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.  Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you His unwavering strength that you may bear it.  Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and worries.”  Francis de Sales

I wake up every morning and have fear.  It doesn’t make sense either.  This fear for which I am STILL trying to dig out the root is illogical to me.  When I go to start a new programming project, or just a day’s work that is not routine, I feel fear. It is the change and the challenge that gets to me, which is why the above quote spoke so powerfully to me this morning.

I am still in the midst of my 40 day fast, and I thought God would let up some on what He wanted me to eat, but instead, He has tightened up the ship for the last 2 weeks of this fast. I am hoping that this further discipline will help dig out this root that has been plaguing me for many years now.  As I look back, I have always been afraid when someone changed the project I was working on, or asked me to do something I had never done before.

I know it MUST be something to do with the fear of failure, but HONESTLY, I cannot trace my train of thought far enough into my emotions to figure out why it is unnerving me.  WHAT AM I AFRAID WILL HAPPEN IF I CAN’T FIGURE THE PROJECT OUT???  At this moment, I just don’t know!

Now that God has provided this great miracle with my husband’s job situation, if only temporarily, this relieves all stress from me to support our family.  No more pressure THERE.  So this must not be related to my financial fears.

Maybe it’s due to my personality – a High C on the DISC profile, or a conservative perfectionist when it comes to my work.  I not only don’t like change, I can’t stand failure. But even knowing this doesn’t help me.

Even more strange is that I am NOT this way in all areas – only in my job performance.  I am, weirdly enough, NOT a perfectionist when it comes to ministry to people, nor with Praise & Worship.  Sure, I would like vocals to be tighter and cleaner and have the band together and on the right chords, but I have the PERSPECTIVE of knowing that no matter how great or how awful we may be, nobody’s really going to even remember what we sang or played by the evening. (It probably also comes from being a P&W Leader when you didn’t have a lot of highly trained or talented people on the team – even a DEAF PERSON in the choir – and so your expectations get a lot lower!)

Maybe I’m missing perspective on this.  Or maybe, this goes much deeper.  Maybe I am connecting my job performance with my identity or my worth, something I have learned NOT to do in ministry.  Hmmmmmm.  That just came to me while I was typing this. And a peace has settled over me as I have said this.

Yes, that must be it. I have been believing that my performance in the “world” still has some bearing on my worth.  If someone blames me for something going wrong in a project, it gets to me like nothing else can. I’m NOT sensitive at all when it comes to ministry.  Somehow, I ‘GET’ God’s grace and mercy in a church situation, but not so much in worldly situations.

What will happen if I fail in my work?  People will think less of me. THAT is what I am fearing.  No, it’s worse than that.  ‘I’ will think less of me.  I am still holding myself to a standard of perfection that I would NEVER hold anyone else to.  WOW.

So, I’m imagining that I am unable to do a particular project that I know is in my future which I have been dreading doing. I’m imagining NOT being able to do it. I’m imagining outsourcing the project to someone else who could. Huh.  Not feeling any panic on that.  I DON’T know everything.  I CAN’T do everything.  It’s OK for me to fail and make mistakes.  If someone else can’t take my imperfection, they’ll have to like it or lump it.  I’m very good at what I do, but I WILL make mistakes.

Hmmmmm.  Peace.  Amazing that the one thing that has continued to drag me down and eat at my joy was taken care of while I sat here and wrote about it.  Of course, I’m not naive enough to think that’s it – and that I won’t deal with it again.  But I now know how to deal with it – and give myself permission to fail, even in the eyes of others. 

And even better, this gives me permission to “unschedule” myself, and to listen to the Lord and respond to what HE wants for me in a day.  If He doesn’t want me to work that day, I won’t.  If He wants me to work all day, I will. He wants to lead me, now that I am untethered from my own yoke of “making my own way to supposedly increase my own self-worth”.  Either way, it will always be a “successful” day, not because of what I have achieved and how I have achieved it, but simply because I listened and obeyed God for that 24 hour period.

Are you trying to be perfect?  Are you beating yourself up over areas of your life that you would treat with grace and mercy if someone else was in your shoes?  Or are you being hard on someone else as a way to deflect so no one will see your own imperfections?  Are you making your life miserable trying to make yourself feel like you are worth something?  I encourage you to seek God’s answers to your mysteries, and ask Him to give you your schedule, hour-by-hour, even minute-by-minute, so you can know “true” success and peace.

Penny Haynes

My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less…

I have been building my hope on lesser things instead of on Jesus’ blood and His righteousness (as the hymn lyrics go).  That’s why I have been experiencing panic attacks of late, and irrational and illogical thought patterns.  In the midst of this 40 day fast I’ve been on, God has been very faithful to break off some strongholds in my life, and continues to do so – but not before shaking my life until whatever is not of Him starts falling off!

As some of you know, my husband has been out of full-time work since October of 2009, with the exception of a 2+ month project.  God has provided Ronnie with short-term projects and part-time work, while also providing me with one main web programming & audio/video client that allows me to bring in just enough to keep us going, along with my husband’s unemployment.  God even blessed me with 7 weeks where I basically made twice what I make right now, giving us the ability to put some money in the bank for emergencies, and pay off my last credit card.

Now check out this strange train of thought I was experiencing.  Throughout my marriage, I would try to make sure there was $1000 in the bank account.  That made me feel safe that we could always pay bills.  If it dropped below that, I would panic.   But $1000 was my “safety net” of sorts.

Well, during the 7 weeks when I made twice my normal amount, at one point, my bank account balance actually said $6,000+ (don’t get too excited – I owed much more than that in credit card and home equity loans).  I paid off my last credit card balance ($2,000+), but saved the rest of the money instead of paying down a large chunk of my business loan.  ALL OF A SUDDEN, I didn’t like seeing the bank account go below $4,000, or I would panic.   Notice, it used to be $1000 was my comfort zone – but NOW I was unhappy and frantic if I went under $4,000!

I couldn’t understand my paranoia and illogical thinking.  Why was $1,000 in the bank no longer a comfort zone?  Why was I clinging to this money like my life depended on it?  It was making me miserable, especially since my earnings were cut in half after those 7 weeks, and there was no way to keep that amount in there or build it up more.  I was OBSESSED with money like I’ve never been in my life!

THEN GOD BROKE ME.  We got a letter from an outsourcing company appealing my husband’s unemployment benefits.  It was unheard of, illogical, petty, and totally without merit – but they STILL filed an appeal to take his weekly benefits away, and even worse, if they won, WE WOULD HAVE TO PAY BACK WHAT HE HAS BEEN PAID!

I was so nervous I was making myself sick.  Ronnie seemed calm, but as the time came closer, he started worrying some. I kept asking God why I was freaking out.  What was I afraid of losing?  And finally He showed me – I was afraid of losing my house and everything we had.  He also showed me that I had begun to trust in the money in my bank account and my ability to make money INSTEAD OF TRUSTING IN HIS DAILY PROVISION.  I was storing up my manna, and it was stinking to high heaven because it was rotten – and I was sick from eating rotten manna!

So I had to make a conscious decision – if He was going to take our house, our bank account, everything, I would be ok with it.  I was going to made the decision to trust Him.  If we had to start over with nothing, it would just be another journey in this adventure with God, and I would trust that He would direct us and that souls would be saved and lives would be changed into the image of Christ because of it – if we were obedient with a good attitude.

Today was the telephone hearing.  I had already called the outsourcing company several times.  Everyone there said they would not and could not repeal the Appeal to take away Ronnie’s benefits as late as this past Thursday.  They were rude, or did not return calls. I knew we had absolutely no control over them or this situation, and we were at the mercy of God’s hand.  I kept asking people to pray for God’s favor in this trial and the heart of the person in charge. I hoped that the woman Ronnie actually had worked with could make a difference.  But then God gave me these words:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand –
ALL OTHER GROUND was sinking sand.

He showed me that I had started relying on and trusting in my bank account instead of Him. He showed me that neither the woman at Ronnie’s work nor the woman in charge of the hearing were who I should be trusting in.  I was to trust in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness – only in the prayer I would pray in His name, only in the power of my Lord to sovereignly intervene in a supernatural way, only in Jesus to somehow defend us.  I was to trust in HIM ALONE.  So I sang that hymn all morning long, over and over and over again.

1pm today the phone hearing occurred.  I got a call from Ronnie and he said that the company trying to take away his benefits CHANGED THEIR MIND AT THE LAST MINUTE and said they were repealing the Appeal!  My husband NEVER HAD TO DEFEND HIMSELF – Jesus sovereignly intervened and CHANGED THE MIND OF THE ACCUSER!  It never occurred to us that this option might happen, but it DID!

Then it gets better.  My husband was offered a job interview this same morning.  It went well and they immediately sent him for a second interview (after the telephone hearing).  They really liked him.  So they sent him back to the first place to get set up.  They have offered him a good salary for a short term project – enough to take care of us for the next few months!  We can definitely now say:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21) 

So what have I learned? 

  1. That God will show you what the root of your problem is by exascerbating it (making the problem WORSE), until you come to grips with the issue. 
  2. He will NOT allow you to trust in something other than Him without dealing with it in a way that will definitely get your attention. 
  3. But most of all, we are not to build our hope on anything less than the day to day, minute by minute grace and mercy our Saviour offers us.  We can’t hoard it or save it for another day.  We can only live for Him moment by moment, listening for His voice and obeying as He commands.

What is God trying to show or teach you right now?  What struggle is He trying to use to show an underlying hindrance in your relationship with Him?  Ask Him to make it plain and be willing to receive whatever answer He reveals.  It will be so worth it!

Penny Haynes